I took a job offer in Kuwait today [need advice]

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jason L., Dec 20, 2002.

  1. Jason L.

    Jason L. Second Unit

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    It's a shame the IT field is so bad in Dallas-Fort Worth that I have to head to a possible war zone just to find work! [​IMG]
    My unemployment benefits are running out, and there is nothing on the horizon. I'm not doing it so much for the money, but for the skills, experience, and sheer adventure. I am not married and have no kids.
    I will have a 1-year commitment to work for a government contractor to do IT work for a military base in Kuwait. I won't be living on the base, I will be sharing an aparment in Kuwait City. I have never been in the military, worked for a government contractor, worked overseas, or spent time in the middle east.
    If anyone could help me out with any insights or answers it would be greatly appreciated.
    1. Have any of you spent time in the middle east, and/or Kuwait? What am I in for?
    2. Have any of you worked for a government contractor? What is it like?
    3. I am told that working overseas, my salary will be tax-free if I stay outside the U.S. for 330 consecutive days. What happens if I have to come back to the U.S.? Will my salary be taxable only for the pro-rated amount of time I am back in the U.S. or is it fully taxable?
    4. To those who have worked overseas, was it worth it?
     
  2. Michael D. Bunting

    Michael D. Bunting Screenwriter

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    Jason
    I just got back from Kuwait this past September. I spent 3 1/2 months over there near Kuwait City. I am in the Air Force.
    If you are going to be at a Military installation...you will probably be working at one of these three places: Ali Al Saleem (West of Kuwait City) - Camp Doha (closest to Kuwait City) - or Ahmed Al Jaber (where I was - 1/2 hour or so South of Kuwait City). Saleem is probably the worst...with Doaha probably being the best with the most facilities on base. Jaber ain't all that bad...but I was ready to go when my time came up - for sure!
    I thought everyone who went that way had to live on-base?...but you are probably better off living in Kuwait City to be honest. The living conditions are probably MUCH better than they are at the bases over there....that is...unless you like TENTS!
    I'm not sure how the tax-free thing will go - for us (Military) all we need to do is spend one day in a COMBAT ZONE (like Kuwait) and the entire month is TAX FREE.
    For example: I arrived in Kuwait on the last day of the month..and I got all that month tax-free (even though I only spent 1 day in the Combat Zone in that particular month).
    But again, I'm not sure how the tax-free thing would work for you. Sorry.
    Kuwait City is actually not that bad...just be careful!
    What I was most suprised to see in Kuwait City:
    Fuddruckers
    Hardees
    TGI Fridays
    Applebees
    Starbucks
    KFC
    Sony Store
    Nice malls (Sharq Mall)
    The folks you work with will be able to tell you more of the DO's and DO NOT's once you get there.
    The Summer heat is BRUTAL: But like they say...it's a DRY heat. And it will be worse than what you are used to in Texas...but you should fare better than most seeing that you are somewhat used to the climate already.
    It hit 122 degrees F one day I was there this past summer...so be ready to drink alot of BOTTLED water!!!
    Before this...I spent 2 years in Turkey...which is somewhat similair to Kuwait. I liked Turkey quite a bit..and really wouldn't mind going back. Kuwait however...well....I wouldn't mind ever going back. I'm not into SAND and HEAT 24/7....I like my rainy Pacific Northwest weather too much [​IMG]
    Hope I helped a little....please let me know if you have any specific questions and I will try to help you out. Good luck!
    Mike
     
  3. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Jason, nothing against Kuwait, per se, but are there no jobs anywhere in the US?
     
  4. Rob Lutter

    Rob Lutter Producer

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    What DVD region is Kuwait in? PAL or NTSC? [​IMG]
     
  5. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    I have never been to the Middle East but I did live offshore for a year, in Malaysia, for a work assignment. Offshore assignments can be very fulfilling and look very good on a resume, for multinational companies.
    I don't know much about the taxes because my employer took care of all the taxes. I don't think most of the oil rich countries have taxes, but you should ask about local taxes. Given the amount of money for most expat assignments I would consult a tax advisor about how to handle the taxes. They can probably give you a good feel for the forms and documentation needed as an ex-pat. They might also know about the local taxation, if any.
    I would check the internet to see if you can find an ex-pat group in Kuwait. You could contact them for direct info. Also, ex-pat groups help new arrivals get used to the new country and can point out useful locations like the best stores, safe night-time locals, key local customs, etc.
    You might also try emailing the US consulate or embassey in Kuwait. They can probably help some or provide links to local groups.
    Good luck.
    Kenneth
    Post Script
    I found this link on google that seems to have lots of other links:
    http://www.expatexchange.com/dev/net...m?networkID=67
    Maybe this will help a little.
    K
     
  6. Jay Taylor

    Jay Taylor Supporting Actor

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    Jason,

    I've made 17 trips to Saudi Arabia while in the Air Force, including 6-months during Desert Storm.

    The American contractors in Saudi had compounds with 8' concrete walls around them that had there own rules, kind of like a little America. They could drink alcohol, watch American movies & satellite TV, and the ladies could swim in bikinis. They had a swimming pool surrounded by palm trees & green grass (a rarity in Saudi). The residents developed close, friendly relationships with other Americans in the compound.

    Outside the compound you had to conform to their rules. The ladies had to cover most of their body with a garment, but not their face like the local Muslim women had to. No alcohol, no movies, basically most things Americans would consider fun is forbidden in Saudi. However they did have great shopping for gold, jewelry, perfume & electronics.

    The pay is excellent. The tax breaks are excellent.

    On the down side, during Desert Storm most people became proficient at donning gas masks, & became familiar with atropine injectors & combo-pen injectors in case of a chem-warfare attack.

    When will you be going to Kuwait?

    Kuwait & Israel may be prime targets of Iraq if the war starts up again. You may want to consider this before packing your bags. Personally, if I were single I would accept a job in Kuwait at this time. But only if I knew before hand that I would be issued as a minimum a gas mask with various filters for different chemical & biological agents.

    Jay Taylor
     
  7. Jason L.

    Jason L. Second Unit

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    Thanks for the feedback guys, I appreciate it.

    1. I am set to leave in mid-January. I will be working at Camp Doha.

    2. What is the cost of living like for eating out and groceries?

    3. Will my electronic devices work there with an adapter/converter?

    4. Is it possible to catch up with sporting events from the U.S. and English/European Football?

    5. How easy is it to see other countries in the region, such as Bahrain?

    6. Since I will be working at Camp Doha [but living in an apartment in Kuwait City] what is the food like at the mess hall? They say that the food at the mess hall will only cost me a few dollars. What exactly is the PX?

    Thanks again and keep them coming.
     
  8. Jay Taylor

    Jay Taylor Supporting Actor

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    I can help with a few Jason:
    The voltage off base is 240V & 50Hz. Which means you will need adapters & transformers to operate your electrical devices off base. Here's a link:
    The Voltage Valet
    On some bases overseas the voltage is 120V & 60Hz on base & then you only need adapters & transformers off base. I don't know if that applies to Camp Doha.
    A PX (Post Exchange) or BX (Base Exchange) is a store similar to a Target with most of the necessities that you will need, except for groceries. Most posts & bases have a commissary where you may purchase groceries.
    Most PX's & BX's will let you order American, European & Asian items that they do not have in stock.
    Most mess halls are like an average cafeteria you might find in the U.S. During peace time the food in most is pretty good. During a war they sometimes serve rations out of foil packets, also known as MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat).
    Jay Taylor
     
  9. Michael D. Bunting

    Michael D. Bunting Screenwriter

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    Camp Doha definitely has the nicest PX in the region (Kuwait).

    I never ate at the "mess hall" there at Doha. So I will not comment on that.

    The PX there at Doha also has a mini "food court" that features: Hardees, KFC, Subway, Baskin Robbins, a Chineese place, and also a Pizza Place.

    The cost of eating out is somewhat expensive - but it all depends on where you eat. If you eat at places like: TGI Fridays, Applebees, etc you can expect it to be similair to US prices. The food is very good - even better than what we have here in America, and the service is usually excellent.

    Most of the waiters/waitresses speak English...and here is the odd thing: Most of them are not Kuwaiti - they are "Third Country Nationals" or "TCN's" that moved to Kuwait from other countries for the jobs.

    If you eat at some of the local resturants - it will be alot cheaper. But I never gort the opportunity to eat anywhere other than the places mentioned above. So I will not comment any further on this either.
     
  10. Zane Charron

    Zane Charron Second Unit

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    Though I've never been to the Middle East, I've spent some time as both military and civilian in Bosnia.
    Tax wise, yes, you should be tax-free as long as you're out of the US for that year (I believe you'll still have to SS and medicare and the tax-freeness is only up to $76,000/year I believe).
    This is a CONTRACTOR position, right? I'm contracted by TRW in Germany now (have been for two and a half years). The pay is generally much higher than in an employee position. Plus you can't really spend nearly as much as you normally do in the States, and some things tend to be free of charge (chow hall food, for example). So you can save quite a lot. Don't be suprised if you come out of there with up to $30-50,000 saved. Some guys stay for years and really get a nice chunk put away. And think of the home theater you could buy when you get back. [​IMG]
    I don't know what the conditions are there but one thing I can tell you is try to get out and soak up some culture while you're there. Don't be a 'barracks rat', as we used to call them. If the conditions are good, than great. If they're not, than you'll appreciate what you have in the US all the more.
    And good luck.
     
  11. Alex-C

    Alex-C Screenwriter

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    Not to get too philisophical, but isnt the internet a frickin wonder of the world ? I mean, here we have this guy who is going to an area of the world he has never been, with little knowledge of what to expect and in a matter of a day or two has frontline info on what to expect from real life experiences of people who have been there, done that.

    Amazing.

    Have a nice day.
     
  12. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are Cinematographer

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  13. Michael D. Bunting

    Michael D. Bunting Screenwriter

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    There are plenty of "bootleg" VCD/DVD movies in Kuwait...believe me [​IMG]
     
  14. Jay Taylor

    Jay Taylor Supporting Actor

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    I wasn't clear in describing "no movies" in Saudi Arabia. I meant no movie theaters, at least not when I was there. And if they have theaters now, I don't know if they are in English.

    I don't know if Kuwait has movie theaters but maybe they have them on the military posts. Most Muslim countries are not as strict as Saudi Arabia.

    Jay Taylor
     
  15. Anthony_D

    Anthony_D Stunt Coordinator

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    There has to be something better than going to the middle east....good lord, I wish you luck
     
  16. Michael D. Bunting

    Michael D. Bunting Screenwriter

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    I believe the movie theater in Kuwait City shows recent american movies...with "Kuwaiti" subtitles - this is what I was told while I was over there...but I never went.

    There might also be a movie theater on Camp Doha (I can't remember).

    They (US Air Force) were in the process of building one at Al Jaber Air Base (the US Air Force base South of Kuwait City) when I left there on August 30th though.

    Kuwait City has more to offer than one would think - I honestly couldn't believe it while I was there. Alot of the Kuwaitis' are VERY VERY RICH. They drive around in luxury cars/SUVS.
     
  17. ChadM

    ChadM Stunt Coordinator

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  18. Dave_Brown

    Dave_Brown Supporting Actor

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    How did you come across this job opportunity anyway? I've always been interested in getting some experience overseas but have no idea how to go about getting started.
     
  19. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

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    A friend of mine teaches in Kuwait and he loves it. All of the Americans and Canadians live in a closed off apartment complex which has three buildings surrounding a courtyard. He said that they are all really close and some of them have started bands and some even have stills and micro breweries set up. His best quote was "It's just like college, only we drive Mercedes instead of VW bugs".
     
  20. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    A good friend of mine lived with her husband in Kuwait City for 16 years until the Iraqi invasion. I can't tell you much except to say she felt they were some of the warmest and nicest people she had met. She and her husband previously lived in Saudi but found the Kuwaitis to be much easier to get to know. They aren't as strict as Saudi but she said the golden rule to getting along and getting to know the natives was to always respect their culture and to show interest in it. Good advice for anywhere really but she felt it of special importance in the mid-East. I highly recommend getting a book or two on Middle Eastern history. You will make friends and impress them if you don't seem to be ignorant of their history. As you might have guessed, these people have LOOOOOOONG memories.

    I was with her when Iraq invaded Kuwait and she was devastated. She saw her apartment building (the really tall one in the center of the city) on CNN and saw the windows all open and smoke coming from some of them. Her one regret was that she did not send things home she could not live without. Her rug collection had been developed over the 20 years they lived in the Middle East and had everything from priceless Heriz to Helicopter Baluchis. There was nothing left when her husband finally got back to Kuwait City. Everything from a crock pot to stainless utensils to toilet paper was stolen. Even the bed. Given current conditions you may want to bring only what you can afford to lose, at least for the time being.

    Good luck Jason and be SURE you have a good internet connection when you get there.
     

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